Administrator Shah on Gender-based Violence and PEPFAR


July 25, 2012

MS. GIBSON: Dr. Shah, I think most people in here know what PEPFAR means, but I’ll say it again just so everyone does know: The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Talk to me about gender-based violence and PEPFAR, and the specific initiatives that apply to PEPFAR for gender-based violence.

MR. SHAH: Sure. Thank you. First, let me just say it’s an honor to be on this panel and to be with Mandisa and so many others who have fought hard to make this issue visible and under very tough and personal circumstances. Under this Administration, we’ve tried to focus on women and girls and the full range of things we do in development and global health. And PEPFAR’s been a shining success story in that effort. I believe funding over the last two years for gender-based violence within PEPFAR overall is up to $155 million. There are specific programs, including a very innovative $48 million effort in the Great Lake states and in Sub-Saharan Africa to support gender-based violence programming.

And I’ll just say, having the chance to be with some of our grantees and partners that had beneficiaries of those resources, you get to see the impact on a moment-by-moment basis. I was with a group of women and a wonderful Mothers to Mothers program, and I know many of you here have had a chance to have a similar experience. But in a group of 12 new women who are part of this support effort and had just been diagnosed positive with HIV and were pregnant. It was incredible the number of personal stories that had gender-based violence at their roots. And it’s sometimes hard, I think for people who aren’t in – doing this work day to day to fully appreciate the extent and scale of the challenge.

In the camps that formed after the Haiti earthquake, for example, despite the best efforts of an entire international peacekeeping force, there were thousands of cases of rape and gender-based violence. And it highlights the reality that it is precisely in vulnerable populations at their time of greatest vulnerability that you see big spikes in gender-based violence. And it’s why, in addition to the funding and excellent programming through PEPFAR, we’re also in our support for refugee camps and displaced persons camps supporting safe spaces for women, better lighting, better security, better basic management logistics practices that have been shown to reduce that kind of violence by more than 50 percent in those post-traumatic or post-conflict settings.

It’s why, even in our agriculture programs, which will seem very far from the subject of HIV, we actually measure women’s empowerment, because we know every dollar of income earned is just better spent if it goes to women. And it’s true in these areas of work, and it’s true across the board, that a real focus on women, on girls, on the most vulnerable and an honest discussion based on the data that Tom was talking about, about the extent and scale of this problem, is the first step to really make real gains.

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